Despite slump, firms still promote — and pay for — wellness

A new survey shows that — even amid cuts in salaries and 401(k) contributions — many firms still are willing to invest in employee wellness. And another survey explains why we get fatter as the economy drops.

Here are the highlight numbers from the survey of 500 HR managers by Towers Perrin:

  • 50% of companies have or will introduce or increase investments in wellness and health promotion in 2009 and 2010.
  • 32% have or will introduce or increase financial incentives, such as bonuses or premium discounts, for wellness or health promotion activities in 2009 and 2010. Another 30% are considering the use of such incentives and bonuses.
  • 45% say they’re considering introducing or increasing penalties for nonparticipation in wellness or health-promotion activities.

Even in a recession?
So, not only are companies investing in wellness, but they’re also weighing whether to punish employees who won’t get on the wellness bandwagon. Why, even in a recession?
For one thing, employers are getting desperate about cutting healthcare costs and controlling near-epidemics in diabetes and obesity.
For another, a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that a dollar invested in wellness yields up to $4.90 in health and absentee savings for employers.
Interesting footnote: ZoneDiet.com did a study that shows obesity has worsened since the onset of the recession. The reason: It’s just a theory, but analysts believe that in tough times, people are more apt to turn to food for comfort.